Last August, chemistry major Lucy Lan (’12) was not only gearing up for her senior year at Wake Forest, but also thinking about ways to inspire innovation and entrepreneurship on campus.
As a student ambassador for the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance (NCIIA), Lan creates networks and events for university entrepreneurs on campus. She also is an avid TED Talk fan, watching several of the online videos that spark ideas among innovators each week.
Then it hit her. Why not bring a TED-like event to Wake Forest? Gathering support from fellow students and university sponsors, TEDxWakeForestU was off and running.
“TED Talks are extremely inspirational, innovative and impactful,” Lan said. “They bring together leaders in various fields to share ‘ideas worth spreading.’ Why not make the first TEDx at Wake Forest even more impactful by inviting the Triad community to participate? TEDxWakeForestU will literally open the gates of innovation by being accessible, inspirational and affordable to a wide audience.”
The TEDx name means this is a community event, independently organized, as opposed to the TED conference that began in California in 1984, bringing together people from technology, entertainment and design. TED is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.”
“Helping to plan this conference has felt like we were starting a small business. We learned so much.” said Jake Graham (’13), a communications major and one of the student organizers. “We worked well as a team, even meeting via Skype from different sides of the earth over winter break to keep the event going. I think our collaboration with faculty and staff from offices around campus allowed us to consider our ideas with unique points of view that are different from our perspective as students to create a wonderful conference.”
While other TEDx events have been held in North Carolina, this is the first for the Piedmont Triad. Eighteen speakers have signed on for a day of inspirational talks from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Wait Chapel.
For the uninitiated, the prospect of 18 talks in one day could sound like a college lecture series on steroids. But if you’ve ever watched a TED Talk online, then you’ll know why the students organizing the Triad’s first TEDx event are so excited about the event. And if you haven’t, now’s your big chance to see it in person.
Many TEDx events cost upwards of $70 and are invitation-only for about 100 people, according to Lan. But TEDxWakeForestU is free to Wake Forest students, faculty and staff, $5 for students from other schools and $10 for the general public. Thanks to the support of university sponsors and TED Fellow Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, TEDxWakeForestU is a larger event with 1,000 attendees expected.
Atala’s TED Talk on Printing a Human Kidney in March of last year was honored as one of the best of 2011. He will kick off the event as the first speaker at TEDxWakeForestU.
“All the speakers were chosen for the innovative ideas they are championing, the spark they bring to the stage and their ties to the community,” said Polly Black, director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, one of the event’s four sponsors. “We’re excited to share these inventive ideas.”
The conference, being held during Wake Forest’s first Spring Family Weekend, is divided into three sections: technological innovation, social welfare and entrepreneurship. There are breaks between sections, along with lunch breaks, so the audience can choose the talks they are most interested in hearing, or decide to stay all day. A separate networking dinner, at a cost of $40, can also allow audience members more interaction with the speakers.
“I believe that game-changing innovation comes from diverse sources,” Lan said. “I hope all those interested in innovation will come curious and leave inspired about the power of ideas.”